Whether you like watching American Idol or not, this season’s favorite to win, David Cook, has demonstrated a number of important principles that can help any small business win in the marketplace.
1. It’s Okay Not to Be First Out of the Blocks. Every year I skip the auditions (obviously, since I run a company named, Make it Remarkable Consulting, it’s rather easy to surmise that excellence matters a lot to me–something seriously lacking in the auditions phase of the competition. So, for my own mental health, I simply avoid that whole segment of the show :-). I wait until the final selection and then try to pick that season’s winner (and I usually guess right or end up picking the second place contestant). This year, when I heard David Archuleta, I was absolutely convinced he would win. When he sang, Imagine, I thought, "Pack your bags everyone. The season’s over." But then along came David Cook and he’s blown me away for the past three weeks (and yes, I’ve even purchased the three songs on iTunes). So, David’s example reminds you and me to not give up when there’s a clear front runner or "everyone’s" counted us out of the race.
2. Take Something Familiar and Make it New. There’s no way to listen to David’s versions of "Hello," or "Eleanor Rigby," or "Billie Jean," and not think he’s done something new to them. In most of our minds when we hear those songs we hear the voices of Lionel Richie, the Beatles or Michael Jackson . Yet, in each case, David Cook, has taken his own sound and created a new version that sounds and feels as though it is completely his. As a former musician, I stand in complete awe. Unfortunately, too many of the other contestants haven’t quite created this same kind of experience. So David’s example reminds us that if you and I want to stand out, we’ve got to figure out how to take what we do and make it unique.
3. Be Willing to Go Out on a Limb. Last week’s rendition of "Billie Jean," was one of the best I’ve ever heard on AI. But it was also one of the greatest risks. In fact, as I was listening to it the first time, I kept hearing Michael Jackson’s version in my head–but David’s arrangement was so completely different–especially in it’s tempo that the arrangement was brilliant! If you haven’t heard it yet, Rickey.org has a great recording of it (or you can purchase the full studio recording of it on iTunes. Regardless, the arrangement was so radically different, that David’s version could have either been a total wipe-out or a work of genius. Fortunately for him (and for us), it was pure genius. But he didn’t get there by playing it safe. His example reminds us that if we want to win big, we’ve got to get out on the limb from time to time.
4. Find Your Own Voice. One of the things I really like about David Cook is that he’s clearly different. He has a sound that is uniquely his, which means he’s not trying to be someone else. In fact, at times, he sounds very un-American Idol. Yet, each week, he’s taken a different musical genre and made it succumb to his style. Without a doubt, he is David Cook (not Lionel, the Beatles, Michael, or any of the previous AI winners). And whenever you and I encounter someone who’s found their own voice, it’s worth taking the time to listen to them.
5. Deliver a Remarkable Performance. It’s not enough to just be different. We need to be different . . . and good! Clearly one of the worst performances this season was when Kristy Lee Cook sang a country quick step version of "Eight Days a Week." Oh, it was different . . . but it was also awful different!!! In other words, different alone isn’t enough. At the end of the day, an idea is only as good as it’s execution. And over these past few weeks, David has delivered the best performance each week (IMHO). At the beginning of the season, I didn’t give him the time of day. But now I walk away each week (and let’s hope he doesn’t let us down now) thinking, "That was incredible!" And whenever anyone delivers what we believe to be a WOW, we all have a tendency to become raving fans.
So as you look at your business, what can David Cook teach you? Are you unique and different? Or are you trying to be like everyone else? Are you delivering a remarkable experience for your customers? Or just an average one? Are you going out on the limb and taking some risks? Or are you playing it safe? And are you persevering when "everyone" else has given up on you?
When you think about those things, I guess it’s possible that a young guy on American Idol can still teach a few of us "older adults" a few things :-).